Michaelmas, 29 September 2010.
In battered Cleveland there is a conflict between the mitre and the people. Cleveland has experienced the diminishment of fortunes that many once industrial towns have endured in America. It has touched more than the economy, it has touched the spirit and soul. One of the venues is the Catholic church. Catholicism is the faith of many of the ethnic groups that make up the cities of Cleveland, Akron, Lorain, Euclid, Lakewood and Elyria. It is also the faith of those in Parma, the other large city in the area, although it also has a high percentage of Byzantine and Orthodox, but Parma’s Roman rite churches have both large collections and mixed ethnicities, and has not been visited by episcopal mandated closures. People had expected a reduction of parishes to some degree. The degree and distribution of the casualties was beyond what was expected. When the list was made public on 14 March 2009 there was anger, surprise and sadness. Some surrendered right away, others still have not. It became immediately apparent that the majority of the parishes were nationality parishes. A false criteria was given for public consumption, and largely accepted unquestionedly. The author and enforcer of the programme was the new Bishop of Cleveland, formerly auxiliary of Boston and the responsible agent of that diocese’s reductions, Richard Gerard Lennon. He is the arrogant villain in this story. There is no way in respecting justice, that he is not.
Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.—Matthew xviii.7.
Several issues have emerged within Cleveland over this. One is whether this is an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the diocese. Throughout English speaking America there has been an episcopal animus against nationality parishes, and non-Roman rituals. Often these bishops were Irish in nationality. The point being, they had lost their original language, and used the language of their occupiers in the old country. In the new country, they spoke that same language the establishment spoke, and not that of the other émigrés, and they eventually became the dominant portion of Catholics within the country.
The chancery has bristled upon this accusation, partly because the term was introduced by the Milošević regime of Jugoslav Serbia as an euphemism for genocide; but here is used for extinction of ethnicity and its culture within the diocese. Of course this is the case by statistics, e.g. Hungarian parishes fall from seven to one, Slovak parishes from seven to zero, with one church surviving as a territorial parish. Other Eastern European nations (Polish, Croat, Slovene, Lithuanian, Czech) were also greatly reduced [African-American parishes were also hit; German parishes were not much recognised as such; Irish parishes are almost accepted as standard; Italian parishes were spared, except for one oratory (chapel); Hispanic congregations were growing]. It was presented, and suggested, that these churches were closed because they were in financial difficulties. They were not (often they were closed because they were financially healthy), though many people still believe they were. Later it was denied that finances were reasons of closure. The first story is still remembered. The media did little to question this, at first they were stenographers. More importantly, those reasons so readily accepted by the US public, are clothed in financial terms, and are not theological.
Beyond that, there is the question of rights. Does a bishop have the right to be a tyrannical autocrat? or is he limited? Does a parish have rights that a bishop must respect? Does the laity have rights vis-a-vis the bishop? The Church does have canon law that may shed light on this. How is it interpreted? Lennon is not a canonist, though he claims to be an expert. He has advocated an interpretation that allows him maximum authority, and disregards limitation. Under civil law of Ohio, the bishop is the trustee of several trusts (parishes). The members of each trust are both the grantor and beneficiary of the trust. What good does it to them that their trust is extinguished and dispersed?
Some accept and defend the bishop’s will, and are crossed at, and with, rebellious opinion. Some will not tolerate to hear contrary evidence. This is a form of extreme clericalism, that is absolutely servile, yet combative. “You must obey, and not criticise, the bishop, because he is the bishop” is not a convincing argument. “You are not going to win against the bishop”, is not comforting either, but is at least rational. And of course, there are are degrees of acceptance, and apathy between.
In pluribus unum, reads the scroll on the hemispheric edge of the apse above the sanctuary of St. Emeric (Imre) on the near west side of Cleveland, Ohio. St. Emeric was the latest parish suppressed (forcibly closed) by Richard Lennon, the bishop of Cleveland. Perhaps its last official day of existence was the last day (30 June) of the fiscal year. The similar E pluribus unum, out of many one, is the motto of the United States of America. In the Catholic church it signifies that from many nations, there is one faith. The ultimate source of the naming of the new world is St. Imre. Imre is a national saint of the Hungarians (Magyars), the italianate form is ‘Amerigo’, and as many readers will recognise that is the christian name of the explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci, and after him were the new lands named.
Now, there is drama in that little description, but without narrative background--one does not recognise it. Catholicism is a communal religion. In a logical extension, all the world can be seen as one parish. That parish has the same beliefs, and worships the same God, Jesus Whom is our Brother. We, who, come from everywhere, and from diverse cultures, and speaking diverse languages are in union. We are not in conflict in our diversities, we are together in our communalities. We exist, or should exist, in our surface differences; those surface differences do not detract from the whole, they add depth and texture. Now, such a vision could ideally be said of the United States of America. That scroll was meant to address God and country. Anyone entering that church, if he looked up, front and center saw it.
The last hours of that church were interesting. The morning Mass was said by Fr. Sandor Siklodi. He was the priest of the parish for the last twenty-five years. His bishop is in Timişoara in Romania, or as the parish members say, ‘Transylvania’; there is a sizable Magyar minority in that province. After that day, Fr. Siklodi was forbidden the exercise of his priestly faculties within the Cleveland diocese by Cleveland’s bishop. There had been scheduled a ‘Mass of Eviction’ at 4 p.m. The bishop was notified that no one at the parish was willing to participate as a principle in such a service. That would be the second parish to refuse participation. St. Peter’s was the first. St. Peter's had the oldest Catholic parish church building in the city itself, other than the cathedral. They have since continued their parish outside the bishop's approval and reach. The bishop, Richard Lennon, being a very jealous man in regards to his privileges and prerogatives, and also sensitive to a slight, cancelled both ‘final’ Masses. At four o’clock there was a rally held outside the church. The church sits on a cul-de-sac, created by the parking lot for the West Side Market. There were speakers on the steps of the church, and a crowd on the grass and pavement. There were no police. Richard Lennon retains the employment of many police, uniformed and not, during his closures. During the rally, the bell of the church tolled. The bell had on it, the name of the first bishop of Cleveland, Louis Amadeus Rappe in appreciation from Cleveland's only French parish, that had some history with the beginning of St. Emeric’s. The bell tolled 56 [there were 58 parishes closed, there was still an uncertainty in the count] times, for 56 of the churches Lennon had closed in the diocese. The number is somewhat nebulous. The diocese does not include the churches closed under Lennon’s tenure before the spring of 2009, yet they do count consolidations from 2002 before Lennon’s arrival. The chancery has maintained an inconsistency in virtually every statement concerning parish reductions. This is not inscrutability, but misleading casuistry at best; at worst constant lying. During the tolling tally an aeroplane dragged a sign with script, JESUS IS LORD - VIVA HUNGARIANS.
At five o’clock, the last service was held in the church, a Litany of Benediction and Exposition of the Sacrament was held. Some two hundred Hungarians and friends shared and participated in the solemn service. Afterwards in the parish basement and social hall people gathered for food and conversation.
The crowds left, but not everyone. A few stayed the night. When contractors came, to change the locks, the next morning at 9 a.m., they found the doors barricaded from within. A series of phone calls were made. Supporters of the sit-in occupation, and a few opponents came to the cul-de-sac. The press was there too. In the afternoon the Cleveland police came. The first was the commander of the Second District. He was to negotiate with the occupying faithful, and act as an agent of the presumptive landlord, Richard Lennon. There were six people still inside. Their legal counsel, Santiago ‘Charlie’ Feliciano Jr., would be there to. Mr. Feliciano had been, for many years, the legal counsel for the diocese.
Cmdr. Keith Sulzer had spoken to people outside the church before entering. The police would consider ramming the door down, this was suggested to them by Bishop Richard Lennon. After stating the case, and praying together, the group surrendered the church. They exited one of the front doors carrying the national standards of Hungary and the United States. There was a minor scuffle over the flags. One woman against the protestors wanted possession, she was shooed away.
This did not end the activities of the parish. It has to be noted, that much of the parish is of the generation of ’56. In 1956, many Hungarians rose against the Soviets and were crushed, and some went into exile. Through this they have a camaraderie of resistance to oppression. They share a cohesion amongst themselves and a stand-offishness towards others. Throughout the period of eminent suppression, there had been, and is currently, an appeal pending with the Vatican to rescind that attempted suppression. There are fourteen parishes in the diocese with current appeals. In other dioceses churches kept operating during appeals. Not so in Cleveland.
Richard Lennon is not a man of magnanimous or conciliatory gestures. For two parishes he delayed making a final decision of suppression upon conditions. That was done only after extra-ordinary, and immediate community appeal for St. Colman, and St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Colman was to be ‘merged’ with St. Stephen. Father Robert Begin is pastor of St. Colman’s. He was arrested for spilling blood in Dow Chemical office in Washington D.C. in 1970. He dismissed F. Lee Bailey as counsel, Bailey was not moral enough. He was denied priestly faculties, residence, and salary for two years for saying an unauthorised Mass in Cleveland’s cathedral. His brother, Daniel, is also a priest in the diocese. Fr. Dan had his two pre-dominately African-American parishes (Epiphany and St. Cecilia) suppressed. He is trying to keep a community going through a programme called ‘Scattered Seeds’. An uncle had been a bishop. Fr. Bob has a law degree. Father Begin is not timid.
All pastors received a letter by Saturday afternoon on 14 March 2009. The 17th of March is St. Patrick’s Day. It is a big deal in Cleveland. St. Colman’s is the Irish cathedral. It is patterned after Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran. Many west side Irish convene there for Mass or company before the big parade. Colman’s sits over a thousand on the floor, there is also a choir loft, that is without a massive pipe organ. As beautiful as Colman’s is, it is missing bells in its steeples and that grand organ. The Irish of the time loved white marble, and it is there in abundance. On the 17th people filled the church and were on the steps, and sidewalks. A bass drummer, and bagpipers led a procession of twenty priests into Colman’s. Father Bob acted as cheerleader, and before the Mass started berated the decision to keep Stephen’s open and to close Colman’s, in direct opposition to the cluster committee’s recommendation. Petitions were passed throughout the crowd. Lennon received much mail. Now Lennon is Irish, but he bristles at it. It was an inopportune time to announce Colman’s demise. Either he is obtuse, or he really wants to be a prick.
Practically every possible Democratic officeholder in the area showed up on the steps of St. Ignatius of Antioch to show their support. St. Ignatius is another extra-ordinary beautiful church. Both Colman and Ignatius are very busy with social programmes. What Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount some people actually do in the neighborhood.
SS. Ignatius, Colman, and Stephen are now open. All three are now under probation. A major condition is coughing up money. St. Stephen’s had about $500,000 in forgiven debt, unforgiven. They had a fundraising campaign, mostly through alumni, and coughed up over $300,000. Architecturally all three are gems. Along a short stretch of I-90/Route 2 West you can see the lighted towers of each. They are quite visible in the daytime. Ignatius has a campanile, Colman twin domed steeples, and the 19th century Stephen’s thick sandstone bell steeple conceals its complete south German interior. It is a national historic landmark, St. Colman’s missed the status by a signature not provided by a previous bishop (Hickey).
St. Emeric has replaced the convening of their Hungarian language Sunday Mass inside the church, with an outside prayer vigil at 9.45 a.m. There are five parishes doing this now. The first was St. Casimir on 15 November 2009. Once [sometimes twice] a month there is a Magyar Mass at Colman’s. St. Stephen’s was at one time courting St. Emeric’s to use Stephen’s facilities and to join St. Stephen’s. St. Emeric’s hosted Hungarian Boy Scouts, a dance troupe, and a language school. This fell through.
In Cleveland, the bishop disperses flocks from within the enclosures of their churches and on into the streets. On All Hallow’s Eve 2009, Richard Lennon told a small crowd of attempted ‘vigilers’ at St. John the Baptist (Slovak), in Akron, that as of 15 April 2006, that, he was the Bishop of Cleveland and the owner of all church property from that point, and they represented no one, so there is the door and there is the police. There is some question whether the State of Ohio will see him as the steward of the parishes’ property or as the owner of the property. The Attorney General’s office has been investigating.
It was common for Catholics in America, as it had been in the old country, to refer to their neighborhoods (villages) by the parish. Many would have found this a familiar story, “I was born by St. Joseph’s, we then moved to Holy Trinity. My brother got a house by St. Pat's. I got married at Holy Family...”. In Cleveland, about St. Hyacinth the neighborhood was called Jackowa, the neighborhood about St. Barbara was Barbarowa. This is the way Catholics spoke. It was very easy to say and to understand. Others may find it a different manner of thought and speech, for Catholics it was natural.
Now, the Poles have a history of rebelliousness. Under the Hitlerian occupation they rose up. In the Nazi camps Poles were shot most often trying to escape. Under the czar they rose up. The 1863 Rebellion, they had a slogan, ‘In the Name of God, For Our Freedom and Yours’. When the dominoes of communism fell in 1989, the Poles had been fighting through Solidarity for ten years. On 8 November 1917 Vladimir Ilich Lenin took Russia.
On 8 November 2009 Richard Gerard Lennon took St. Casimir. It is strange accident of similarity, that opponents of the current lennonist regime in Cleveland have pointed to, and the press does not mention. Some maintain that the diocese of Cleveland has become Lennongrad. Just as St. Petersburg had become Leningrad, St. Petersburg eventually came back, so the hope of Cleveland to become Cleveland lives.
On the East Side, near Lake Erie, there are the streets Pulaski, Sowinski and Kosciusko, there is the boarded, shut and chained Saint Casimir. Its last day open was memorable. All over America, St. Casimir is either a Lithuanian or a Polish parish. He is a shared royal saint of both nations. In Cleveland Saint Casimir was a Polish parish for over a century, then there were two for a few days, then one was forcibly closed.
Saint George was a Lithuanian parish, a few blocks from Saint Casimir. It was closed 18 October 2009. On the 25th the remaining Lithuanian parish, further east near the lake shore, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), was renamed as the merged parish of Saint Casimir. Here several strains of politics collide. The northeastern part of Cleveland is Collinwood. Collinwood had four open parishes. Lennon mandated one to be closed. The councilman, Michael Polensek, fiercely vocally defended those parishes in unpleasant heated private conversations with Bishop Lennon. In no other case did a ‘merged’ parish come from without a ‘cluster group’ of Lennon's creation. In no other case did two parishes of the same ethnicity combine. In no other case did a ‘cluster group’ not have a parish close when at least one was mandated for closure. If it is not apparent, Lennon is not in the habit of relenting, or backtracking, or making conciliations. In Freudian terms, he is quite anal. Lennon had reports that Saint Casimir really did not want to be suppressed. They had appealed to Rome. The pastor, Monsignor Leo Telesz, who was in his nineties was not amenable to retirement or closure. Lennon renamed the parish, the church was and still is OLPH, Casimir as a provocation.
On 8 November there was an early morning English Mass, and then a very large Polish Mass celebrated by Fr. Jan Wachala from Poland. He would not be allowed to function as a priest in the diocese thereafter. There were veteran commemorations, and a teen age violinist at that Mass followed by an outdoor Eucharistic Procession. Outside there was a large crowd of sympathisers and protestors and cops.
Then came the Mass of Eviction. Msgr. Telesz was ordered to participate, he had repeatedly said he wouldn’t, and advised the same to the parishioners. ‘Wladek’ a 96 year altar boy pulled the power to Lennon’s microphone. After the Gospel reading, Lennon was to deliver his oft repeated, boring and false sermon on eviction. A Polish version of Casablanca occurred. Television stations WJW and WEWS had filmed it. WEWS never broadcast their footage, or even referred to the disruption. Firstly, many Poles walked out of the church, and some people from outside walked in to see what happened.
In the Hollywood film, Casablanca, the French sang their national civil hymn, the Marsellaise of 1795 to drown out the Germans. The Poles sang their national civil hymn, Dabrowski’s Mazurek of 1797 to drown out Lennon. People were singing and crying at the same time. Someone brought in the recorded instrumental music. Polish religious hymns were sung. Lennon was aghast. After this event, Lennon increased the amount of police required at other churches he dispossessed. Lennon is paranoid. He has been reported, by many, as wearing a bullet proof shirt to these events, so far not even a rotten tomato has been launched. In the end Lennon left the church 90 minutes after the Mass began, as is his wont. A most impressive departure, occurred the next month at Holy Trinity (Lorain). Mass was at 9 a.m., at 10.30 the bells rang, garage doors opened, cars came out, police cruisers had been waiting in queue and began to move. Lennon’s escape vehicle was in the lot behind the church, and exited from the other drive. A less elaborate ruse was used at Casimir’s. Lennon is a creature of habit. The Germans closed Rick’s Place. Lennon closed Casimir’s. The Polish anthem begins, “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła [Poland will not perish]”. The parish met the next week on the street.
For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.—Matthew xviii. 20.
That first street vigil was in Polish, two weeks later it was over an hundred people and bi-lingual. Dr. Michael Klymiuk had a dream where the Polish Madonna told him, “Do not leave me alone”. These vigils are sessions of prayers, hymns, news and fellowship. First they were of Polish immigrants from the parish. Then they were of both Polish immigrants and American born parishioners. Then they were of Catholics who believed such a parish should continue. They have met every week without fail, and weather is no impediment.
Poland is dedicated to Mary. Saint Casimir’s is dedicated to Mary. The Poles have been steadfast and tenacious. Nation, patriotism and religion are tightly fused with honor, propriety and pride, not unlike many other people.
“If I forget about them, Thou, O God in heaven, forget about me.” — Adam Mickiewicz. 1832. Forefathers' Eve (Dziady) III. 1. i.
The romantic poet, Mickiewicz, also identified Poland with the suffering Christ. He was not alone in this thought. In Lent, in addition to the Stations of the Cross, the Poles have Gorzkie Żale [Bitter Lamentations] which are hymns and meditations of lamentation. In wayside shrines there often sits a suffering Christ, Chrystus Frasobliwy.
Saint Casimir’s is the Solidarity church in Cleveland. One of the builders of the monument from the slain workers of the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland of 1980 is a member of the parish. He was part of the crew who built a replica of the monument for St. Casimir’s, it was spirited out before the church’s dispossession.
There are regulars to this religious service. The two prayer leaders are Wojciech ‘Wojtek’ Fleszar and Joseph Feckanin. Four sisters née Kowalewski, Teresa who often drives in from Toledo, Jadwiga, Maria, and Krystyna. Their brother, Wladyslaw ‘Wally’ lives in Akron. Colleen O’Shaughnessy drives in from the west suburbs, often with different members of her family. Mrs. O’Shaughnessy somehow became aware of the situation, and started coming. She has never been inside the church.
Krystyna and Colleen have lobbied Cleveland City Hall every Monday that council has been in session. On the 20th September they got 16 of 17 council members present to sign a petition disapproving of Lennon’s mistreatment of Saint Casimir’s. Two were out of town, and the council president, Martin Sweeney refused. Earlier Krystyna Moreno got the Lt. Governor, who is running for senator, Lee Fisher to sign at St. John Cantius’ parish festival.
Their earlier lobbying produced a rally on the steps of City Hall in May. Several councilmen, and protesting Catholics of other parishes, spoke that evening. Councilman Mrs. Dona Brady, who had similar conversations as did Polensek with Lennon, had gotten a reprieve for St. Ignatius spoke as did the protestors of lennonism. The three sisters who still live Cleveland, now do not often attend Mass. Many people in the diocese have been discouraged in the exercise of their faith because of lennonism.
The three Kowalewski sisters who still live Cleveland, now do not often attend Mass. Many people in the diocese have been discouraged in the exercise of their faith because of lennonism. One of the components of lennonist pastorship is a disinterest in people's discouragement and abandonment. In one of the rare public candid moments of his episcopate, he told the parishioners of the Hungarian parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Akron, “Let them go.”
What think you? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them should go astray: doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go to seek that which is gone astray?—Matthew xviii. 12.
Joseph Feckanin is American born, but maintains a fierce and deep identification with his Slavonic background. His mother was fully Polish, his father, Rusyn and Slovak. He still has relatives he visits in Poland. He has had family in this country, that, have gone to Byzantine, Orthodox and National Catholic churches because of previous heavy handed Roman-rite bishops. The first bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, John Ireland pushed many Greek-rite [the older term for Byzantine] Catholics away. He was the chief of the Americanist bishops, and an oddity of that time, a Republican. Similar attitudes created the schismatic Polish National Catholic Church to begin in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1897. Joseph being Rusyn, whom are Byzantine, it is not a great travel to leave to one of these other churches. His faith has grown stronger in opposition to Lennon. He attends the Polish language Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary, which he fears will be on a second round of reductions.
Of the five parishes (Casimir, Patrick, James, Emeric, Wendelin) who are continuing in street worship, the Casimiri are the most developed. Every week they have a portable setting along the fence that separates the sidewalk from the church. The Adamczewski family has produced banners, including a 8' x 12' canvas with a photo of the church's high altar. Other icons and signs and flags, always flags--Polish, US, and other nations appear, and then taken down. They wear white and red armbands, which have a few meanings. White and red are the Polish national colors, similar armbands showed up during the uprising against Hitler, they are the colors of the Divine Mercy of Jesus, symbolising the water and blood that streamed from his side. Divine Mercy is the patron of the street vigiling, Divine Mercy later became the Patron of the first inter-parish group, Endangered Catholics, to protest Lennon’s five year plan, mostly of closures. The chancery has made no attempt to recognise these street Catholics.
Lennon considers his every move final. He is the supreme autocrat. As in pharonic Egypt, he is the only citizen. In Hobbesian thought, he is the Leviathan.
There are people in Cleveland who are beyond dismayed with Lennon’s actions. They believe what they have always been taught, and understood about the faith. A parish is supposed to be perpetual, they are not disposable, they are not franchises that are to be dealt with as in American capitalism outlets. Many people remarked that the communists did not so eagerly and quickly and deliberately close churches. These people see Lennon’s actions as contrary the Will of God, and an affront to Him. They also see it as a betrayal to the people who built these parishes.
“...Lord, I know that thou art a hard man, thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed.”—Matthew xxv. 24.
Catholic ethics has always taught, that there is proper authority, and improper authority. Some things are within some jurisdiction, and others are not. The first rule in Catholic ethics is, that the ends never justify the means.
Lennon has some grand scheme of his reconfiguration of the diocese. He has not fully detailed it to the public. He often contradicts those particulars that he does give. Consistency in word is not his forte. His word is good only as long as the breath of the word still hangs in the room.
Parishes are meant to be perpetual. The parishes were not built by the diocese, or the bishops; they were built by the parishioners. Grandfathers built them for their grandchildren. They were not meant to be temporary. They are not meant to be distributed geographically as are gasoline stations, and grocery stores. These suppressions and ‘mergers’ were done with brutal mendacity. Lennon had a private five year plan for Cleveland after he arrived in 2006 from Boston, where he had engineered their closures. Lennon is akin to the ‘hard man’ in the parable that reapest where he had not sown.
He has a public relations man, Robert Tayek, that has no difficulty issuing lies [serial and ridiculous] and ‘spun’ statements. Tayek has earned himself two nicknames ‘Baghdad Bob’ and ‘Bull**** Bob’. The criteria for reductions are not theological, they are those of American capitalist business management. Tayek says that 46% of parishes were in debt. The figure of 46% is of less than dubious value. There was nothing approaching a correlation between closure and indebtedness. The source of this indebtedness was back assessments (bishop’s tax), of which Cleveland has the highest on the continent: 16½ % for parishes without schools, 11½% for parishes with schools. Some parishes had no assessments collected for years, and past assessments forgiven. When Lennon came to town all these debts became due. The attitude was, “debt was debt”.
Another plausible, but false, criterion is a presumed ‘priest shortage’. In 1847, the diocese was the northern half of Ohio. It had 33 parishes and 17 priests, some of whom English was not their native language, and that was true of the bishop. So parishes can exist, and did exist without resident priests. Another perspective can posit that the US in the 1950’s and 1960’s had a priest surplus.
After some local parish closings non diocesan priests were denied exercise of faculties and/or asked to leave — one Lithuanian Jesuit, one Hungarian priest, one Polish priest, and the Sanguinists (Precious Blood). The further recruiting of non-European priests was ended. Earlier, priests not in favor were reassigned, or retired. Favorability was based on Lennon’s biases. A pacifist Jesuit priest, who had a deaf ministry was sent away. A priest with Parkinson’s was forced to retire. The pattern he created in Boston, he brought to Cleveland. Later it was even denied that the issue of priests was a factor.
Truly, the few public statements issued concerning decisions made had little to do with reality. Parishes were closed in the diocese of Cleveland for quick money, and to eliminate nationality parishes in a form of ethnic cleansing.
Now, St. Peter’s was in a cluster with the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The cathedral is the church that houses the bishop’s chair (the cathedra). The other parish was the Shrine of the Conversion of St. Paul, which is the church bought from the Anglicans, during the last Depression, to be the church of the Franciscan cloistered sisters. Lennon would allow only one of the three to remain a parish. The Shrine would remain a shrine and the Sisters’ chapel, but not a parish. Lennon maintains that no results were pre-determined. Out of this cluster only one parish would survive. The reader can guess.
St. Peter’s was listed always as a German parish, it does not consider itself a nationality parish now. Under the pastorship of Father Robert Marrone it was a nationally recognised parish. The parish had increased its membership and finances greatly. It had, and has, an admirable education and outreach programme. From its membership has come leadership to the two inter-parish opposition groups to Lennon, the aforementioned Endangered Catholics, and Code Purple.
St. Peter’s too, did not want to close. They refused to have a Mass of Eviction. The inclusion of the gun toting entourage required by the bishop was especially galling to the pastor and congregation. They held their last Mass in a packed church on Easter morning. They continued to meet at rented space at Cleveland State University. They would not disperse. They reconvened, and had their inaugural Mass in rented space, in an old electric car factory, on 15 August. They were warned by Lennon not to do this. They have been having standing room only of over three hundred. Two thirds of their previously registered parishioners are registered there now. Lennon, through his spokesman Bob Tayek, has been described as wanting to speak to them. He has not.In the Sunday issue of the establishment’s local daily, Cleveland Plain Dealer, letters were published concerning the local bishop, Richard Lennon, and Saint Peter’s after the Mass of Reunion. One of the writers was a local Methodist clergyman of note, Kenneth Chalker, who has since written Rome. We have reached the point where the local bishop is embarrassing us in front of the neighbours, so to speak. Rome has to shake its head from side to side on this one. Lennon has caused great division and damage, and he is unrelenting.
He is akin to Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, the White Queen and the Queen of Hearts, and we are Alice. Words do not have their normal meaning, but mean precisely as Humpty has them mean at the moment. Alice is exasperated with the White Queen’s speech: “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday -- but never jam to-day.” When Lennon says ‘unity’ he means ‘servile and absolute obedience’. When he says ‘vibrant’, even he has no definition. And for every aggravation the Queen of Hearts cries for maximum punishment, “Off with her head.”
Ex-communication has been rarely called for in recent centuries. The parish (as we have been told so many times, is not a building) just began meeting elsewhere. To ex-communicate Catholics participating in a valid Mass is ridiculous. It is swinging a twenty pound sledge at a tack, in this supposed offense here. It is this sort of disproportionate response that led to the ‘retirement’ of Scranton’s bishop, Joseph Martino for ‘health reasons’. It is the function of a priest to say Mass. Mass can be celebrated anywhere and has been: on ship; on the battlefield; in a house, hidden in the basement away from the gaze of anti-Catholic governments; in the forest away from Elizabethan priest catchers. The Liturgy of the 15th was no heretical, or invalid act. It was a Mass of Reunion, of a parish that was continuing their existence. To suggest it is worthy to be ex-communicated for is absurd.
On a dreich evening, 27 September, there was marked the year anniversary of the eviction and suppression of St. Stanislaus in Lorain. Everyone thought the weather matched the mood. At 6.30 p.m. a dozen plus, mostly seniors, gathered on the front steps of the boarded church. Some press was their to photograph and interview. One of their number, Todd Settie, wearing a jacket with a 6621 union logo (it is to remembered the area was quite unionised at one time, and that unionisation brings representational democratic tendencies) read a statement about the harshness of the closings to parishioners and the unkindness of the bishop. It was immigrants who suffered, and lovingly built these churches. The closing of them brings pain and division. Other people had the same stories, as did others from parish after parish. They wander. They are deeply grieved, how could it be that the freedom of America leads to closed churches, while the despotism of communism allowed churches to remain open. An attractive, petite, television reporter had come there, and later she stood in front of St. Colman for a live ‘feed’. Colman's pastor, Robert Begin had written to papal pro nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, again. This time he highlighted the points that the non-Catholic clergy have noticed the grave episcopal shortcomings, and how parishioners would have Rome find a place for Lennon in that city, and that they were losing confidence in the Vatican.
Some at St. Stan’s held lighted candles.. They prayed a Prayer of Christian Unity, and the Our Father, and sang Serdeczna Matko. After the reporters left another ten came, recent Polish immigrants. They thought it was to be at 7 p.m. They sang a longer version of the same Marian hymn, and some more. They mourned. They would have their church back, but not one thought seriously that would be.
On the 24th it was reported, that, the nearby Hungarian church campus of St. Ladislaus was sold for about $200,000. That was four buildings. A few years before the rectory was remodeled at more than twice that, and the church's exterior spruced up for about half that. Another Hungarian parish in nearby Elyria was recently sold for $145,300, and now a drum set sits underneath the apse where the altar had been. St. Stanislaus was advertised for sale before it closed, something months later ‘Baghdad’ Bob Tayek, the bishop’s public relations man, said never happens. It too is asking less than the remodel it had undergone. The bishop wants quick money, and closed nationality parishes. The Depression era prices are just another insult. Lennon wants many millions in a capital campaign that has been delayed more than once, and still is unannounced. His will is of one wavelength. The attitude of the people of the diocese is another. This does not matter to Richard Lennon, he has no interest in music.
Under canon law each parish is a juridic person. In actuality, each parish has a personality. Several are of outstanding merit, and have contributed much. A man with sentiment would notice that.
Several closed parishes gave many of their children to the Church. One of the standard criticisms for those who defend the closures are, “How many vocations came from them?”. St. Hyacinth (Cleveland, suppressed) gave the Church, John Cardinal Krol. St. Robert’s [Euclid, closed through ‘merger’, buildings and 7.6 acres on Lake Shore Blvd. was sold to the city for $674,000. That sale came a little too quick, similarly St. Lawrence *(Cleveland) was reportedly sold less than three months after suppression and not publicly listed.] gave the Church, the El Salvadoran Martyr, Dorothy (Sr. Laurentine) Kazel. Lennon ordained two priests this year. He does not inspire vocations.
From all that Richard has done, and continues to do, many regard the diocese as Lennongrad. In Holy Russia, Lenin and Stalin closed churches, old women prayed outside those closed churches. In the time of Gorbachev, old women prayed outside closed churches. They were not the same old women. Closed churches in Russia have re-opened. Leningrad has become St. Petersburg again.
*postscriptum 13 December 2011: The disposition of the real estate is still not public. Many items were ransomed by St. Mary’s in Collinwood.
postscriptum ii: It still is not known the situation concerning the church of St. Lawrence. The statue of St. Lawrence is still on the building; which is odd, the Fatima shrine grouping was taken away. In other closed parishes such statues were taken for separate sale.